Gangsters have been around boxing for ever. When boxing took hold in Madison Square Garden just after the First World War, a new wave of criminals moved in: the Mob. It was then that Prohibition gave street legitimacy to organised crime right across America; and by the time Joe Louis arrived to breathe excitement through a country ravaged by the Great Depression, the wise guys were firmly entrenched at ringside.
Mike Jacobs, the grizzled boss of boxing at the Garden for nearly twenty years, made the Brown Bomber the biggest sports star in the world, and a string of romantic writers ensured this would be remembered as the fight game’s golden age. They mingled with underworld heavies along a strip of New York pavement near the Garden known only as Jacobs Beach. Kevin Mitchell’s gripping book is the unsanitised story of those times and that place, of Rat Pack cool and the fading of the Mob’s peculiar glamour, brilliantly told through the eyes of the men who were there.
Yellow Jersey Press, 2011